At 54, Cate Blanchett AC has achieved true icon status, commanding respect where others demand it.
Yet here’s something about Blanchett that’s very down to earth, from the twinkle in her eye to her audacious, often-gritty, screen roles to her penchant for self-deprecating humor, this mother of four has it all.
Blanchett describes herself as an ‘experience junkie,’ and a popular anecdote about her first appearance on screen sums up the appetite for adventure that has driven her career.
The daughter of a Texan advertising salesman and an Australian teacher, Blanchett was born in Melbourne, Australia, the middle of three children.
An inquisitive child from the get-go, Blanchett felt drawn to a career as a museum curator, (perhaps an early hint at her penchant for storytelling) but took a gap year and traveled to Egypt to broaden her horizons.
Legend has it that she was down on her luck financially, marooned in Cairo and unable to pay her hotel bill, so she accepted a job as an extra in a boxing film, promised a payment of two Egyptian pounds and a falafel.
“I didn’t have enough money to pay for my room for the week. I went along, and there was an Arab guy with a megaphone, like something out of a silent movie, and it was so hot and so boring that I left,” Blanchett has said, adding that she never received her promised falafel.
While the film industry didn’t initially inspire young Blanchett, the craft of acting drew her in. Upon her return to Australia Blanchett enrolled in drama school, and parts started coming her way.
She cut her teeth as an actor on the boards, playing big roles on Sydney stages, including opposite Geoffrey Rush in the 1992 production of Oleana, and a handful of silver screen turns in small films, such as 1997’s Paradise Road, before she was cast in her breakthrough rebirth in a period piece as Elizabeth in 1998’s film of the same name which premiered at the Venice Film Festival.
The utter embodiment of the fiery and unconventional queen, Blanchett has since ascended to a throne of her own making. Careful not to be typecast as a historical figure strapped into corsets and wigs, Blanchett’s career is vast and varied, from small films and supporting parts to blockbuster franchises.
Whatever the role, there’s something ethereal to her performances, an intangible earnestness that exudes from her inner strength, as she wrangles her way into the audience’s hearts through subtleties, including glances that can be alternatively agate-sharp, playful, joyful and soulful, Blanchett has mastered the art of using her lithesome physical presence to create emotion and depth, adding nuances to characters through shrugged shoulders or a flip of her golden mane to convey much more than her scripts ever do.
She creates tapestries with her characters and knows just the right strings to pull to make them resonate.
Blanchett can be a diva when the role calls for it, and then slip easily to the embodiment of angst, as she did in the last scene of her Oscar-winning role in Blue Jasmine, crying into the camera makeup free, making her character’s utter despair and brokenness a visceral experience for the viewer.
Her performance in that scene prompted film legend Sophia Loren to write in her autobiography: “I was struck by the last scene in Blue Jasmine, where Cate Blanchett has an expression on her face I’d never seen before. That expression crept inside me, and it lies there waiting to germinate a new plant, a new flower.”
Blanchett’s ability to transform acting beyond storytelling makes her, inarguably, one of the world’s greatest living actors, Blanchett’s marvelous career has garnered her more than 300 award nominations and 166 wins including two Oscars (Blue Jasmine and The Aviator where she played Katherine Hepburn, an Oscar-winner herself), four Golden Globe Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards, four British Film Academy Awards and a Tony nomination.
It seems that since she first exploded on the scene she’s been everywhere, big and small, including memorable roles in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Thor: Ragnarok, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Babel, I’m Not There (as Bob Dylan himself) Carol, and most recently in Tár, Nightmare Alley and The New Boy, which made its world premiere at Cannes in 2023.
With more than 70 films under her belt, Blanchett and her husband, playwright Andrew Upton, share a love of the stage and carved out time to direct the Sydney Theatre Company from 2008 to 2013. In 2017, Blanchett was named a Companion of the Order of Australia for her acting as well as her impressive devotion to charitable and humanitarian causes.
“I believe that a creative career is only as good as the risks that you take with it.” — Cate Blanchett
Blanchett has served as an ambassador to the Australian Conservation Foundation and has long worked with the United Nations on refugee issues. She’s also been a brand ambassador for Armani and Louis Vuitton, juggling the limelight while shining a spotlight on issues that matter deeply to her.
To the delight of fans, this captivating performer shows no signs of slowing down with numerous projects in the works, carefully tending a garden of brilliant blooms.